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City of Regina report recommends removing John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria Park

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WATCH: A report on a controversial Regina landmark is ready for review by city council and those personally involved are celebrating its findings as a step towards reconciliation – Mar 28, 2021

A city of Regina report headed to city council this Wednesday recommends removing the John A. Macdonald statue that currently stands in Victoria Park and temporarily putting it in storage.

“Through the research and conversations completed to date, administration has determined that the existence of the statue, and in particular, its prominent placement in Victoria Park is viewed by many in the Indigenous community as a relic from a time prior to the City of Regina’s endorsement and commitment to Truth and Reconciliation,” the report reads.

The report was first considered in a private session by Regina’s executive committee last Monday, after a review of the legacy of the statue was launched amid calls for its removal last June.

“Specifically, the statue stands in commemoration of Sir John A. Macdonald’s legacy as a founder of Confederation and the first prime minister of Canada, but without context to support broad understanding of the impact of his policies on Indigenous peoples and other ethno-cultural communities,” the report continues.

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It recommends administration report back to City Council in Q1 of 2022 with the results of an engagement process to determine the final location of the statue.

Read more: Local group pressuring City of Regina to rename Dewdney Avenue, park

The city of Regina hung a sign on the statue last year after the legacy review got underway. File / Global News

The second phase of the city’s legacy review will entail “education and outreach initiatives through Regina.ca to build understanding of the legacy of Sir John A. Macdonald.”

The report summarizes the first phase of the review with a number of findings:

  • “Statue creates barriers to access and participate fully in civic life within Victoria Park and
    City Square Plaza”
  • “Presence or removal of the statue, as a single action, does not have an impact on full
    understanding of history”
  • “There is opportunity to increase understanding of Sir John A. Macdonald’s full legacy
    among Regina residents through public art and other media”
  • “Decisive action perceived as commitment to Reconciliation”
  • “Non-Indigenous organizations and institutions, including the city, must continue to take a
    leadership role in truth telling with regard to this and other harmful legacies”

The report says the following criteria will be used to determine where the statue ends up (should its recommendations be approved as written).

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  • “When exhibited, the statue will be in a location that is accessible to the public when they
    choose – i.e. it will not be exhibited along a well-used thoroughfare, public space, or
    location of major public events.”
  • “When exhibited, the statue will be placed in appropriate context, with interpretive panels,
    online content, and/or programming that speaks to Macdonald’s full legacy. Any partner
    that the city engages with on this project will need capacity to undertake appropriate
    activities to set context.”

Read more: Hundreds sign petition to rename McPherson Avenue, suggest Métis fiddler John Arcand

A letter written by John A. Macdonald to Edgar Dewdney dated November 20 1885. It reads “the executions on the 27th of the Indians ought to convince the red man that the white man governs.”. University of Calgary

Macdonald has become a contentious and controversial historical figure, given his role in establishing colonial systems that oppressed Indigenous peoples across the country.

He has become notorious for his influence on the creation of Canada’s residential schools.

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“When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian. He is simply a savage who can read and write. It has been strongly pressed on myself, as the head of the department, that the Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools, where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men,” he is quoted as telling the House of Commons in 1883.

The report states that the cost of removing the Macdonald statue, as well as embarking on a communications and engagement campaign, to be between $25,000 and $35,000.

It says the cost can be absorbed within existing budgets this year and next.

The statue was installed in 1967 as part of Canadian centennial commemorations.

A different report on Wednesday’s council agenda recommends renaming Dewdney Pool “Buffalo Meadows Pool”.

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